Long after most of his Lakers teammates had completed practice on Thursday, Kyle Kuzma was still on the court putting in some extra work.
He was involved in drills with Lakers assistant coaches in which Kuzma would run from one side of the court to the other, set his feet and then shoot a jumper.
When asked if it was just for fun, Kuzma smiled and said, “definitely not for fun.”
No, this was serious work for Kuzma — work to get his legs back, work to get his conditioning up to par, work to get his game back after missing four games to start the season while recovering from a stress reaction in his left ankle that he sustained while playing for Team USA in August.
“I don’t want to just be out there running for nothing,” Kuzma said. “But I think it was big today just to get out there and have game-like shots and game-like actions of me getting tired and having to finish and close off some shots with the coaching staff. We’ll probably be doing that for the next couple of weeks just so I can get back in basketball-type of feel.”
His numbers from the first three games Kuzma participated in this season on the Lakers’ just-completed trip showed the forward just how far he still has to go.
He’s averaging 9.7 points per game over 18.7 minutes.
But Kuzma is making just 38.7% of his shots and just 12.5% (two-for-16) from three-point range.
“I think all my shots that I really missed were really [just] short, dead-on, short,” Kuzma said. “I think last year I shot a lot of left and right and all-over type of shots, but I think most of my shots were short, or rimmed out. That just tells you it’s my legs, and really getting it up. So I’m very satisfied with that.”
Kuzma began to show signs of life in his game during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night when he scored 11 of his 15 points. He was five-for-eight shooting from the field.
His play was a big reason why the Lakers overcame a 19-point deficit to collect the victory and keep their winning streak going at six in a row.
Kuzma isn’t ready to say his legs and conditioning are all the way back just yet.
“I’ll let you know tomorrow night. I’ll let you know,” he said. “I know that from a conditioning standpoint, I wasn’t necessarily tired. But it’s still a thing, you know, jumping up and getting the right arc and whatnot. So, you know, it’s coming. I think that fourth quarter was encouraging for myself.”
Coach Frank Vogel told the media that he was questionable for Friday night’s game against the Miami Heat at Staples Center, but Avery Bradley sees it “more on the positive side” of being able to play.
Bradley missed Tuesday night’s game against the Bulls because of a bruised right lower leg after being inadvertently kicked by San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray on Sunday night.
That led Vogel to say after Bradley participated in the non-contract portion of practice Thursday that his 6-2 guard was questionable.
“Yeah, it’s probably a little more on the positive side,” Bradley said. “But as of right now, I’m just gonna come in tomorrow, see how I feel in the morning and then hopefully I’m feeling well enough to play.… It is improving. As of right now, I’m planning on playing tomorrow, but we’ll see how I feel tomorrow.”
Vogel said Rajon Rondo, who has been sidelined by a calf injury, participated in the non-contact portion of practice Thursday, but that his guard was doubtful for the game against the Heat Friday night.
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday.
On Air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330.
Update: LeBron James leads the NBA in assists, averaging a career-best 11.1 per game. The Heat have seven players averaging in double figures in scoring, led by Kendrick Nunn (18.3), Goran Dragic (15.1) and Jimmy Butler (15). Heat center Bam Adebayo leads the team in rebounding (9.3). The Heat remain tough on defense, giving up 106.6 points per game, ranking the team 10th in points surrendered.